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New Zealand’s premier ballooning competition has a new champ

New Zealand’s premier ballooning competition has a new champion

The cream of New Zealand’s competitive balloonists rose to the top on Saturday as the final target was set to decide the champion of champions.

The Wairarapa Balloon Fiesta, celebrating its 16th stunning days with a mass ascension, which involved 22 balloons lifting-off within 10 minutes, a New Zealand record on Thursday and another perfect lift-off from Carrington Park in Carterton on Friday.

Due to deteriorating weather conditions because of cyclone Lusi, the Martinborough event on Saturday ended up being the last leg of the competition.

After two perfect days of flying, Martinborough was the big decider as 22 pilots pitted their skill and read the winds in an attempt to score maximum points on a target laid in the heart of the wine village.

And it was tight competition. Going into day three, it was neck and neck with young Christchurch balloonist Nicholas Oakley, a New Zealand under 21 gliding champion just a few points behind seasoned Nelson balloonist John Clifton. Nicholas was gunning hard for 2013 champ, Scott Cursons of Wellington to take out the top spot, but Scott wasn’t in the running leading into day three.

What clinched the competition was pure skill and knowledge of low level wind conditions that got John Clifton enough left turn to put him precisely over the target to score maximum points.

John, who has been a top three placer over the past five years took out top points to claim first place, with Nicholas Oakley having to settle for second place and Carterton pilot Peter King coming in third.

Balloonmeister Martyn Stacey says pilots want to fly, compete and enjoy the area and the people. “Once again Wairarapa has put on an awesome display from great weather to the most positive responses from the public that left the pilots with big smiles and wanting to return again next year.”

“Once again thanks to great organisers, who volunteer to make sure the event is the best it can be for the people of the Wairarapa. Feedback from locals and people all over New Zealand has been extremely positive. I look forward to doing it all again next year.”

Even after 16 years, no one had tired of the fiesta, said event organiser Jonathan Hooker. “With an event that is 100 per cent dependent on the weather, we had an incredible first three mornings even though the bad weather finally hit. It didn’t take any sparkle away from what is a premier event for the Wairarapa and New Zealand and New Zealand balloonists.”


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